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Saturday, May 05, 2007

Responsible Blogging

The other day I was asked “Son of Gaia,” a Libertarian Blogger, in a comment on this Blog this most interesting question, “By the way - this is not an accusation, just a question. Are you being paid by any person or organization to promote this tobacco control agenda, either as a single issue or as part of a larger "wellness" agenda?”

I responded that my firm, Cambridge Strategies Inc., was retained by the Campaign for a Smoke Free Alberta and was doing some communications work with them to support an effort for province wide legislated smoking ban. I referred him to some video interviews on our affiliated website Policy Channel that was part of the work.

This relationship to my Blog and my professional work has offended the “Son” and fellow Libertarian Werner Patel and they have accused me of “shilling” as a result. At first I was angry with the accusation and put it down to the “agony of defeat” that the opponents of tobacco control are feeling as they are finally losing this battle.

That may be true, but on reflection I think they have a point. In fact it is a much larger point than even tobacco control, important as that issue is to our society.

The blogosphere is a wide open unregulated free for all unlimited access medium that enables conversation and discourse to happen amongst a diversity of people on a wider and more equal basis than ever before.

That is a good thing but that freedom also demands some responsibilities be associated with it. The Blogosphere, as part of the Internet culture of today, is subject to abuses too and it can be a dangerous place for the naïve and the vulnerable.

There is little trust left for objectivity and accuracy in the MSM at least in the populations I deal with. As for the blogosphere, there is an inherent and healthy presumption of distrust because of the very nature of the medium. So if a Blogger wants to be taken seriously and be seen as above the screaming and screed of those Bloggers and Commentators who usually hide behind anonymity, they have to be more responsible.

So here is my short list suggestions for standards and responsibilities for serious Bloggers.

One must be authoritative. You have to give sources and reflect them and their content accurately. Rants are fun – sometimes – but they need context to be effective. Criticism is important but it has to be fair and anchored accurately to actual issues, significant events and provide a correct account of the perspectives of those being criticized.

One responsibility has to be genuineness. This is a very personal medium and Bloggers points of view are usually very obvious and their beliefs are strongly held. To be taken seriously readers will be looking for the evidence of consistent alignment of a Blogger’s actions, like posting content, tone and subject matter selection, with his or her stated values and principles.

The next responsibility for a serious Blogger is authenticity. One has to be worthy of belief and be trustworthy. Authenticity is the most important of these three responsibilities for a serious Blogger at the end of the day to my mind.

This is where Son of Gaia and Werner have a point about my postings on tobacco control, smoking and wellness. I should have made it clear that I was working on this issue and not just posting on it…for purposes of honouring a responsibility for authenticity.

In an earlier posting on Mountain Pine Beetle infestation I noted I was working for a group of communities west of Edmonton called the Grande Alberta Economic Region on how they might adapt to the consequences of the beetle infestation. I noted in a posting on Dion wanting the return of the Court Challenges Program that I had received funds from the program as a lawyer to help establish French language minority education rights in Alberta many years ago. I feel strongly about literacy and have done work in that area. I have as posted on its importance, particularly in terms of workplace safety, productivity, competitiveness and personal capacity and growth.

You can rest assured I will always be personally engaged in the issues I post on, but given the nature of the Blogosphere, one can assume that. In the future I will be more careful to let readers know if I am professionally involved in an issue or event that I on post in this Blog as well.